JPRI Critique Vol. V No. 9 (October 1998)
Gagged on the Ginza
by Ivan P. Hall

Whither Japan-Korea Relations?
by Yong-mok Kim

Gagged on the Ginza
by Ivan P. Hall

In March, 1998, the Mainichi Newspaper Company published Chi no Sakoku: Gaikokujin o Haijo suru Nihon no Chishikijin Sangyo, (trans. Chikara Suzuki, 1,600 Yen), the Japanese translation of my book, Cartels of the Mind: Japan's Intellectual Closed Shop (New York: W.W. Norton, 1997). The initial Japanese print run was 30,000 hardback copies, over 20,000 of which had been sold as of the end of July.

Confirming my own suspicions (but hardly surprising to me), my Japanese editors now tell me that Chi no Sakoku has been black-listed for reviewing by Japan's great national dailies (including, ironically, the Mainichi, whose own book department published the volume). Not from government guidance on high, but out of the newspaper industry itself has come this consensus to "mokusatsu" (i.e., to ignore, literally "to kill with silence," the term used for Japan's "no" to the Potsdam Declaration 53 years ago).

It seems that I have been too explicitly critical (in Chapter 2) of the exclusive, collusive "kisha clubs" (reporters' clubs) maintained by Japan's major dailies and TV networks. I have had the temerity to finger organizations by name and to quote their apologists from the public record at embarrassing length. The Japanese press bounds like a pack of bloodhounds after errant politicians and businessmen (or Uncle Sam), but digs its head into the sand like an ostrich when a little criticism comes its own way. I am delighted to have the thesis of my book so splendidly illustrated, but I do regret the loss of so many potential readers--the Asahi alone has eight million of them, the Yomiuri nine.

As I write these lines, the kisha clubs persist in the very behavior I have been gagged for criticizing. Late this spring foreign journalists were shut out of the press conference by Prime Minister Hashimoto announcing sanctions that Japan (the "only atom-bombed nation") was taking against India in the wake of its nuclear testing. If there were ever an issue on which Japan needed the outside world listening in, this was it. The Bloomberg News bureau chief, David Butts, went into the designated room anyway, taking a seat and refusing to leave. The AP reporter was turned away at the door. As "punishment" all Bloomberg personnel were barred from the Tokyo Stock Exchange club for a week, and their man covering the ruling Liberal Democratic Party headquarters was told he was no longer welcome there.

It's not too hard to see the connection between Tokyo's smug and dilatory response to its own and Asia's financial crises and the reluctance of Japan's intellectual organizations to engage the outside world by permitting foreign participation in their professional structures and by meeting foreign criticism openly rather than trying to "kill it with silence."

Japan's magazine industry--also barred from the kisha clubs--has given my book good coverage, including both opinion monthlies such as Shokun and Bungei Shunju and special niche journals such as Ad, Sentaku, and Dokushojin. Two Japanese friends phoned to commiserate. One, a journalist, said that the abolition of the comfy club system would introduce real competition into Japanese reporting for the first time, forcing the beneficiaries of this monopoly on sources to get off their duffs. The other surmised that the Japanese press was afraid to publish reviews of my book for the simple reason that it would publicly raise questions to which there really are no good answers.

IVAN P. HALL is currently working on a sequel to Cartels of the Mind about how the U.S. has repeatedly allowed itself to be misled, intellectually and psychologically, by Japan. He has taught at several universities in Japan and is a member of the Board of Advisers of the Japan Policy Research Institute.

Whither Japan-Korea Relations?
by Yong-mok Kim

With the new administration led by Kim Dae Jung inaugurated in Korea in February, and the brand-new Obuchi administration in Japan, both governments are jockeying for a stronger position in anticipation of the state visit by Kim to Japan on October 7th of this year.

Korea is deeply involved in trying to rescue itself from its economic crisis and must negotiate the best possible terms with its largest creditor nation, Japan. In fact, this need overshadows anything else that Kim Dae Jung wants to accomplish in improving Japanese-Korean relations. Kim has repeatedly signalled as much by pledging that he will finally allow Japanese "culture"--meaning Japanese films, videos, songs, etc.--to re-enter Korea, and that instead of making an issue out of what Japan did in Korea during its colonial rule, he looks forward to more "constructive relations" with Japan in the coming century.

Japan, by the same token, has announced its intention to reach an agreement on the Japan-Korea Fisheries Treaty. However, the newly appointed Japanese Foreign Minister has expressed skepticism about developing a two-country "consensus" on historical issues. And, as if to remind people of the difficulty of agreeing on the past, the newly appointed Japanese Agriculture and Fisheries Minister began his term in office by flip-flopping in his public views on whether wartime "comfort women" were or were not forcibly recruited.

So even if Kim wants to bypass the nasty issue of past Japanese-Korean relations, Japan seems to have less intention of accommodating Korea. A joint committee to study the historical past of Japan and Korea was inaugurated more than a year ago. At first, both sides had difficulties in coming up with a suitable list of three members on each side. Japan finally selected a panel that included a former Foreign Ministry official and a political science professor, while Korea selected more traditional history specialists. After failing to agree on an agenda at the first session, one of the Japanese members concluded that reaching a consensus view on the two nations' past was impossible.

An interesting suggestion has been made by the young (aged 30) Japanese-born Korean Akutagawa prize winner, Yu Miri. She argues that the contentions of both sides about the past should be written up side by side--for example, that the comfort women existed and did not exist. The problem is that on many of these issues the Japanese seem to have amnesia and would prefer not to think about them at all.

Disentangling the present from the past is always difficult. Allowing Japanese cultural properties into Korea was once seen as a potential threat to the proud cultural heritage of the Koreans. Behind this fear of course lay the fact that during the Japanese occupation lasting from 1905 to 1945, Koreans were not allowed to retain their names, language, or other aspects of their culture. But today the threat is different, although perhaps more serious. First, the Japanese would demand enormous royalty payments from Korean importers of Japanese culture, and this in turn might promote renewed Korean protests against Japan, including not only over the royalty payments but also rejecting on principle "things Japanese."

Kim So Un, the leading Japanologist in Korea of a generation ago, aptly observed that throughout its history Japan has been essentially a "taker" of foreign culture, including Korea's, and never a "giver." Japanese tend to forget that for thousands of years Korea freely exported its arts and culture to Japan. (Only a few months ago the latest archeological discovery in central Japan featured a ceiling mural sketch of a constellation that turned out to be a sketch of a constellation in the fifth or sixth century over the skies of Pyongyang, then the capital of the Kogoryo during the Three Kingdom period.) Thousands of Korean cultural artifacts were also forcibly removed from Korea by Japan during the war and never returned despite Japan's promises to do so. Some people have suggested that Japan's past indebtedness to Korean culture and the cultural artifacts still held in Japan should be weighed in the negotiations over Japan's current desire to export its popular culture to Korea.

Other issues that still trouble relations between the two countries include the fact that, starting in 1959, the Japanese Red Cross was instrumental in sending over 80,000 Korean residents in Japan to North Korea, despite their knowledge that 93% of the Korean residents in Japan were of South Korean origin. It was argued at the time that repatriation to the north was necessary on the "humanistic" grounds that North Korea needed manpower and the financial resources of Korean residents in Japan.

No detailed studies are needed to document what happened to these 80,000 Koreans. Some were used as hostages to squeeze monetary and material aid from their relatives remaining in Japan, while the majority were discriminated against in the North on grounds that they had a different ideology, life-style, and accent. Many of them were banished from their work places and instead sent to labor and thought-reform camps.

In 1997, the Japanese Red Cross, again expressing a "humanitarian" concern, negotiated with North Korea to allow a limited number of Japanese wives who had married former Korean residents in Japan to return to Japan for family visits. Two groups consisting of about 30 Japanese spouses each were indeed "escorted" by North Korean guides on visits to Japan in late 1997 and early 1998. But neither the South Korean nor the Japanese press has commented on the remaining 80,000 sent to North Korea who have not been allowed to visit their relatives and friends in Japan. This, too, is an issue that Kim Dae Jung might raise with the new government in Japan in order to bring joint pressure on North Korea.

The Japanese government has hinted its desire to have Japanese Emperor Akihito attend the World Soccer Cup opening ceremony to be held in Seoul in the year 2002. Japanese reports also indicate Emperor Akihito's personal wish to visit Korea, the only country formerly under Japanese control that he has not yet visited, in order to express his personal regrets over the unfortunate past. Would it not be timely, therefore, for the Japanese people and their government to start this process by offering their apologies and amends for past deeds in Korea, and at the same time to acknowledge their own indebtedness to Korean culture?

YONG MOK KIM is co-chairman of the Korean-American Forum in Los Angeles. He has taught Asian history at the University of Southern California and California State, Los Angeles, and is now a business consultant.

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